DENVER -- Through nine starts in 2023, Reds starting pitcher Hunter Greene still lacks a victory and still hasn't reached seven innings in an outing. The common thread to most of Greene's performances is one marathon inning that leads to an earlier night.
Greene lasted four innings but threw 96 pitches for a no-decision in a 9-8 Reds loss to the Rockies on Monday at Coors Field. In the second inning, he threw 32 pitches, and gave up four runs.
“He just never really got into the flow. Too many pitches, really," Reds manager David Bell said. "It’s a tough place to pitch, we all know that, but he didn’t have his best breaking ball. It looked like he was either missing with his fastball or getting too much of the plate."
Greene finished with six earned runs and nine hits allowed over his four innings, with one walk, eight strikeouts and two home runs. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 21 batters.
Cincinnati had a 1-0 lead in the second inning when former Red Mike Moustakas led off with a booming homer to right field to start the four-run rally. Following two more hits came back-to-back strikeouts. Brenton Doyle added an RBI double and Charlie Blackmon's RBI triple made it a 4-1 game.
The Reds' offense was tenacious throughout the night and tied the game in the top of the fourth inning. But Colorado bounced back in the bottom of the fourth when Doyle tapped Greene for a two-run homer.
After the game, Greene was stunningly upbeat about his performance.
"I pitched really well tonight," he said. "There were pitches that I doubled up on that I shouldn’t have. Those double ups weren’t as good as the prior pitch. Because of that, I suffered in those situations, but overall, man, there were a lot of wins out of tonight. I think you guys know those wins. I just have to keep pushing."
Greene declined to specify those wins within a game, but clearly one was the quality of his work-in-progress changeup. He threw it seven times vs. Colorado and got four whiffs -- including a Moustakas strikeout in the third inning. Overall he got 15 misses on 53 swings.
"I thought I made some really, really good pitches," Greene said. "That’s all I’m focusing on. I’m happy. I’m not going to let the results of today get to me. A lot of great things from today. The line doesn’t show that, but for me and for the staff, a lot of positives."
Bell would like to see Greene attack more in the strike zone.
"We all know Hunter has great stuff," Bell said. "He’s figured out how to pitch here at the Major League level. He’s just got to get back to doing that. We’re still early in the year and he’s very determined to figure it out."
Greene, 23, is 0-3 with a 4.60 ERA and 43 innings pitched. He's completed six innings twice. His early Monday night taxed a bullpen some more as it needed to cover four innings. The right-hander would like to be more pitch efficient, but has found it elusive.
"I feel like I’ve executed on corners and haven’t got them. Then there are times where I definitely haven’t executed that pitch in the corner," Greene said. "It looks like an inch off and it’s not in the zone. It’s tough, man. This is a profession where the strike zone is only as big as it is. We work on trying to hit those spots on the corners. When you don’t hit them, it’s a ball and it adds up."
Cincinnati's bullpen is second in the National League with 166 ⅔ innings this season but leads the NL with a 3.67 ERA.
A couple of Reds relievers could have used some more luck. Ben Lively took over from Greene in the fifth inning and retired seven of his eight batters. Ryan McMahon's seventh-inning comebacker off Lively's leg in the seventh went for an infield hit and put the go-ahead run on in a 6-6 game.
Lucas Sims replaced Lively and gave up a two-out walk to Randal Grichuk before Harold Castro swung at a tough fastball up and inside the plate and drove it for a double to the right-field corner.
It was the first run Sims gave up this season after 11 scoreless appearances.
"Who knows what could have happened but giving up a free pass like that, that probably makes it more frustrating," Sims said.